Juazeiro do Norte is a town in the southern part of the state of Ceara. 6 km from the center is located Regional Airport do Cariri, which serves mainly for domestic flights and also is conducted there an intense activity with gliders as well as skydiving.
The site was used in 1979 to conduct stratospheric balloon launches as part of the national programme of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) which carried out two launches from there, in a joint campaign with the National Center of Atmospheric Research (NCAR) from US.
Almost 20 years later, in 1996, the NASA balloon program would use again the airport as a launch site for stratospheric balloons. At that time, the agency idea was to find a location as close as possible to Ecuador, so a team of technicians from the National Scientific Balloon Facility (NSBF) was sent to Brazil so along together with its local peers to visit potential places from where carry out the launches. After travelling hundreds of miles and visit dozens of cities across the northeast of the country, the NASA technicians elected Juazeiro do Norte, because the infrastructure there was the best suited to the operations planned. Aditionally, the agency invested nearly $ 100000 dollars to improve the facilities of one of the hangars used as headquarters of the local flying club to allow the long process of preparation of payloads to be carried out in a conditioned atmosphere, something vital due to the high temperatures of the region.
The first campaign aimed at measuring atmospheric ozone, was due to begin in November 1997, but bureaucratic complications arose for the entrance of the instruments in the country. This forced to postpone the launch of the balloons until January 1997. That same year in November, a second campaign with the same objective was held.
Taking account the infrastructure investment done by the NSBF made to think that Juazeiro do Norte would become one of the many alternative sites for launching balloons of the Agency, especially taking into account their scientific interest because of its location. However, logistical and bureaucratic complications and the high costs generated during the two campaigns, eventually led NASA to desist from conducting operations there.
In recent years, the NSBF evaluated again to resume its operations from Brazil, focusing their search on sites located further south. Among the two possible candidates were the local airports at Araras and Botucatu, both in the state of Sao Paulo. However, there is no evidence that has been made any progress on reagrd this.
I want to especially thank my friend Nilton B. Reno who gave me the images of this page and Dwight Bawcom who provided key information and several corrections.
Table of balloons launched from Juazeiro do Norte, Brazil